A California-based company has agreed to pay $900,000 to settle an investigation by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) into its launching and operation of small satellites without prior authorization.
According to an Order issued by the FCC in late December, the company, Swarm Technologies, Inc., “engaged in unauthorized deployment and operation of satellites, unauthorized operation of earth ground stations, and other unauthorized operation and testing of radio frequency equipment.”
Specifically, the company launched four experimental Space BEEs (for basic electronic elements) from a facility in India in January 2018 after the FCC had denied an earlier request for permission to do so. The Commission only learned about the unauthorized launch in March 2018, at which point it set aside a subsequently-issued grant of approval and initiated its investigation into the company and its practices. That investigation uncovered additional violations, including a 2017 deployment of unauthorized weather balloons and the conduct of balloon-to-ground station tests.
A Consent Decree issued concurrently with the Order characterizes Swarm Technologies as “a start-up focused on creating and deploying small two-way communications satellites to enable low-cost, space-based connectivity anywhere in the world.” The company’s website (www.swarm.space) lists Julius Genachowski, former Chairman of the FCC under President Barack Obama, as an advisor to the firm.
Commission rules require a license prior to the deployment and operation of a satellite, as well as prior to the operations of any experimental radio services.
In addition to the financial penalty, Swarm Technologies has also agreed to submit pre-launch reports to the FCC for the next three years and to adhere to the terms of a strict compliance plan to prevent future violations of FCC rules.